ADVANCING EQUITY An administrator's guide to implementing equitible strategies in Baltimore City
INTRODUCTION On August 10, 2018, Baltimore City enacted Ordinance 18-160, “Equity Assessment Program.” The program’s intent is “to close the gaps in policy, practice, and allocation of City’s resources based on race, gender, religion, sexual orientation and income while improving the outcomes for all.” Among its many provisions, this measure requires all City agencies to appoint an Equity Coordinator; effect an ongoing assessment of policies, procedures, programs and operations for review of impact; develop an equity assessment plan; take steps to eliminate and remediate disparate outcomes based on prohibited considerations; deliver training; and report on progress in meeting the requirements of the Program. Across the United States, cities like Seattle, Portland, Long Beach, and Madison, Wisconsin, among others, have acknowledged that the historical influence of race has been a key determinant in many of the conditions residents of color are experiencing today, and until the structural and institutional forces are dismantled, conditions will remain the same. In Baltimore, the City’s Sustainability Plan establishes much of the context for Equity, highlighting the disparities associated with race and place, and the differences that exist by community. The Sustainability Plan makes clear the need for Baltimore to undertake action to remedy the structural effects of discrimination that have affected economic opportunities and all of its variables, including but not limited to, employment, health, housing, education and government services. Baltimore has committed to address the present effects of a legacy of discrimination and to embed equity throughout the City, in its work with communities, and in its relationships with other partners throughout government and industry. The road to equity isn’t easy. It requires a long-term commitment to learning, the courage to have hard conversations, and a willingness to try new things and think about investments in a different way. It recognizes our commitment to remedying burdens affecting historically undeserved or underrepresented communities without diminishing services for all Citywide. Here, in our City, our work, is just beginning, but we are committed to committed to the work, and the accountability associated with it, as our plan herein reflects. Together, we are joining other cities to ensure more equitable, sustainable, and healthy communities.
STEP ONE: ANNOUNCE THE CHANGE With the Equity Ordinance signed, the citizens of Baltimore have to know that this is a priority for the Mayor, the City Council, and for all whom conduct business with the City. Making the announcement is straight forward -- the real work comes with having the right people in place, the necessary infrastructure to support, the partnerships aligned, and the systems of accountability in place to implement the program. With Council Ordinance 18-160 effected, the next step is to ensure widespread dissemination of change and what it means for the citizens.
Mayor Issues Policy Statement on Equity – this declaration sets the tone for the message as well as the program Mayor Conducts Press Release and Introduces Equity Principal – this allows for a brief discussion of the importance of the topic of race and equity and allows the announcement of the Principal whom will carry out the program Mayor’s Web Page Contains a Focus on Equity -- the Baltimore City web site will serve as the repository for all public facing documents regarding the equity program, including but not limited to the Equity staff, the development of the Equity plan, key community engagements, surveys, and all central information Charm TV features a segment on Baltimore’s Equity Program “Community Conversations” about Equity are convened throughout the City in concert with the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhoods and City Community Liaisons Work on the Equity Plan for Baltimore City commences with communities, nonprofits, and other stakeholders Commitment to Data Transparency is Reflected on Web Pages – data is central to the Equity program, from city demographics to community demographics and other key indicators of performance Commitment to Equity is reinforced in Mayor’s Cabinet Meetings
DEDICATE THE RESOURCES AND ESTABLISH INFRASTRUCTURE The success of any program depends upon proper commitment of human and capital resources. While many cities across the U.S. have organizations established to execute the mission, each municipality is different in terms of its population, the challenges to address, and funding constraints. Baltimore’s current population of 604,000, in an environment of well publicized equity challenges, necessitates a strong commitment from the onset to ensure programmatic success. In Baltimore, the Mayor’s Office of Equity was aligned with the existing Office of Civil Rights and Wage Enforcement and renamed as the Office of Equity and Civil Rights. This organizational alignment makes sense in terms of the like and related missions, the existing intellectual human capital already on board in the office, and the existing infrastructure and programs in place.
This new Office of Equity and Civil Rights will be responsible for the following: Establishing City policy regarding equity and partnering with existing offices to ensure that equity strategies are harmonized City-wide Developing the Mayor’s messaging on Equity Assisting in the selection of Equity Coordinators throughout agencies Chairing the internal City-wide Committee on Equity, with a reporting relationship established as part of the performance record Capitalizing upon existing best practices such as the “Planning Academy” and “Ambassador” program Centralizing the City’s relationships with communities throughout Baltimore City, eliminating the duplication and fragmentation that exists when multiple agencies engage separately with communities Establishing an External Civil Rights program to ensure that individuals are not excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or otherwise subjected to prohibited discrimination under programs or activities conducted by the City Building, reaffirming and leveraging public, private, and nonprofit alliances to overcome inequities and create pathways for opportunities for all, especially those whom have been disadvantaged most Establishing the metrics that will ensure success in the program, both internally within Baltimore City operations and externally with communities Overseeing the Equity Fund, established by Ordinance 18-160 and measuring the cost of inequity
STRENGTHEN INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL PARTNERSHIPS Throughout the City, communities, advocates and other partners have committed to addressing many of Baltimore's challenges. Whether focusing on crime reduction and prevention, homelessness, poverty, and unemployment, to name a few, these groups are vital stakeholders in the movement for equity. With a critical focus on space, where people live, work, and play, and the intersection with race and income, our partners understand how all of this relates to the social determinants of health. They equally recognize that when all have the opportunity to achieve their full potential, when barriers are eliminated, and when economic opportunities are open and available, outcomes can and will change.
Capitalizing upon existing opportunities, the Office of Civil Rights and Equity will: Build upon the excellence of the Department of Planning's Community Ambassador Program and establish that as a Baltimore citywide group of externally trained voices to help advance equity Ensure that the Equity plan complements the Sustainability Plan and other internal City commitments Align the resources in the Mayor's Office of Neighborhoods as principal cohorts to advance equity in the communities, creating coherent approaches to community engagement Centralize community liaison resources throughout the City Departments to develop, unify, and anchor City resources. Identify key established nonprofits to support different aspects of the equity initiative in such areas as education and training, grant solicitation, advocacy and other efforts.
CREATING BALTIMORE'S RACIAL EQUITY PLAN For Baltimore, advancing racial equity is not a new topic. Existing Civil Rights laws such as Titles VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act have long served as tools to advance racial equity. In most instances, however, these laws have served to correct singular and disparate class claims. An Equity Plan, however, recognizes the structural and institutional forces, the cumulative effects of which have created class divides, especially along racial and income lines. An equitable Baltimore will not occur without a plan that codifies the work that is needed to improve our City and create a more level playing field for our residents. This Equity work is not new. Other cities across America have implemented racial equity plans. Their track records and lessons learned will provide vital insights in the development of Baltimore's Plan. At the same time, Baltimore's Plan, while broadly framed, must allow for tailored responses to address issues innate to Baltimore's neighborhoods. Internal to Baltimore City, heads of agencies, along with key managers, must be held accountable for their roles in advancing equity. At the same time, citizens and residents have to engage in reciprocal efforts to fulfill the goals established in the plans.
This work includes the following: Announce and publicize the Mayor’s policy and commitment to Equity Create a team of internal and external facilitators and practitioners to manage the message and collect and integrate information, using various methods of outreach to diverse constituencies and communities, such as Charm TV, focus groups and surveys – this contemplates integrating the existing cadre of Ambassadors and harmonizing their efforts with the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhoods and the Community Aides and Liaisons throughout the City agencies Establish a communication plan that sets forth a common understanding of the historical forces shaping inequity and its implications for Baltimore -- the message should be clear and consistent Foster accountability at the highest levels of city government by aligning "Equity" not only to executive performance but also supervisory and managerial performance Require each City office to develop equity plans that reflect measurable progress relative to their mission, budgets, and their internal and external practices